************ Sermon on Philippians 2:3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 28, 2002
Topic: PrideThis woman, we would have to say, is guilty of the sin of pride. She looks so holy and pious, worshiping there in front of the statue; yet, she is not following the example of Christ and she is doing the opposite of what Paul says in our text:
Subtopic: Examples of
Savanarola, the great Florentine preacher of the 15th century, one day saw an elderly woman worshiping at the statue of the Virgin Mary which stood in his city's great cathedral. On the following day, he noticed the same woman again on her knees before the statue. With great interest, Savanarola observed that day after day, she came and did homage before the statue.
"Look how she reverences the Virgin Mother," Savanarola whispered to one of his fellow priests.
Don't be deceived by what you see," the priest responded. "Many years ago an artist was commissioned to create a statue for the cathedral. As he sought a young woman to pose as the model for his sculpture, he found one who seemed to be the perfect subject. She was young, serenely lovely, and had a mystical quality in her face. The image of that young woman inspired his statue of Mary. The woman who now worships the statue is the same one who served as its model years ago. Shortly after the statue was put in place, she began to visit it and continued to worship there religiously ever since."
(Phil 2:3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Today we continue our study of those attitudes of the heart or mind identified by the medieval church as the seven deadly sins by looking at the sin of pride. These attitudes, if you remember, if left unchecked, lead us to sin and destruction and, eventually, to hell.
A What is pride? Pride causes us, in the words of our text, to act "out of selfish ambition or vain conceit" (Phil 2:3). The Greek here has the word "glory" in it. We all have a choice between self-glory and God's glory. The proud person lives for his own glory, for self-glory. But in his letter to the Philippian Christians Paul tells us, on 5 different occasions, that all glory belongs to God and His Christ (1:11; 2:11; 3:21; 4:19,20).
It becomes obvious that pride is idolatry. The proud person erects an idol to him or herself. He looks in the mirror every morning and sings, "How Great Thou Art." Pride is arrogant self-worship. It is the sin of exalting oneself and placing one's own interests above the interests of God and others. Pride craves the admiration and even adoration that properly belongs to God alone. When we read Isaiah it appears that it was pride that led Satan to rebel against God:
(Is 14:12-15) How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! (13) You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. (14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (15) But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.Pride does not and cannot share the limelight. Pride deludes its victims into believing they have no equals and drives them to criticize anyone who takes recognition away from them. The proud are in love with themselves and seek to call attention to their admirable qualities.
B Pride comes in many forms and attacks many people. We all have met parents who brag endlessly about their kids. Behind this bragging is the ugly lie that the achievements of the children visibly demonstrate the superiority of the parents. Self-glory or God's glory, which will it be?
Many parents ruin sports for their children. Children aren't allowed to have fun anymore; they are supposed to win. From Little League to High School basketball, I see and hear parents pushing their children to excel. These parents want to gratify their own ego needs. Self-glory or God's glory, which will it be?
A number of times I have met pastors in the Gospel ministry about whom I have doubts – doubts, that is, that they have been called to the Gospel ministry by the Lord. Instead, it seems they are in the ministry because their parents pushed them in. Parents have to be ever so careful about filling their ego needs through their kids. Self-glory or God's glory, which will it be?
All the way through grade school I endured the boasts of a classmate. No matter what it was – soccer, baseball, skating, wrestling, running, school grades – he made sure he let the rest of us know that he was the best and had the best. The last time I talked to him, which was 24 years since grade school, I discovered he is still boasting. Self-glory or God's glory, which will it be?
In Philippians 1 Paul directs his attention to preachers, to leaders in the church. He says,
(Phil 1:15,17) It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry ... out of selfish ambition, not sincerely ...All preachers want to be told how wonderful their sermons are. But that involves risk, great risk, because it can lead to pride, to self-glorification rather than the glory of God.
Topic: PrideI, as a preacher, have to remember something: that I can't convince people that I am wonderful and that Jesus is wonderful in the same sermon. What I am after is not that folks shall say at the end of it all, "What an excellent sermon!" That is failure. I am here to have them say, when it is over, "What a great God!" Again the choice: self-glory or God's glory.
Subtopic: Examples of
Tony Campolo tells the story of a friend of his who was talking with an elderly woman after a worship service. Suddenly their conversation was disrupted by the shout of the pastor's young son who had run up into the pulpit, seized the microphone, and shouted, "Look everybody, I'm in the pulpit!" With disgust the elderly woman said, "His father preaches that every Sunday."
C "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit." Why is Paul so concerned about pride, about vanity, about self-glory? Because pride, as Paul knew first-hand, is a barrier to salvation.
First, pride too often keeps us from seeing the truth about ourselves: that we are sinners who need to repent. The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is observed by devout Jews throughout the world. Recently, when asked why he was not at the local synagogue, one self-righteous Jew retorted, "I have done nothing for which I must atone." This attitude is neither new nor unique. Jesus had harsh things to say about the Pharisees because their pride kept them from seeing their sin and their need for a Savior. You know the parable:
(Lk 18:10-14) "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. (12) I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' (13) "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' (14) "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."If there is in you any hint that you have no or little sin to repent of, your condition is as pitiful as that of the Pharisees.
In this light I want you to take note of what is happening to America's kids today. Our society tells children and young people that there is no such thing as right and wrong. We say that all religions are valid, that all value systems are equal, and that there is no ultimate truth. Parents are not allowed to discipline kids anymore because that is bad for their self-image. Teachers are discouraged from giving failing grades to students because that is bad for their egos. Instead, we are to only praise and encourage our children and tell them how great they are. The end result is that we have created monsters filled with pride and robbed of sin, shame, and conscience.
Second, our pride drives us to depend on ourselves and not on another for salvation. Pride leads us to try and earn our salvation by doing good works so that the Father owes us eternal life. But this is not in the plan of God. Rather, He requires that we humble ourselves, that we confess our sins, that we acknowledge our total inability to live righteous lives, and that we depend for our salvation only on His grace. Quoting from Proverbs, the Apostle Peter can say, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Pt 5:5).
I am sure you realize that there was a time when Paul boasted about his Jewish heritage:
(Phil 3:5-6) circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; (6) as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.This sounds impressive, but all that it accomplished was to keep Paul from Christ. You see, Paul was of the opinion that because of all this he deserved salvation, that he was worthy to receive God's blessings. He did not realize that he was spiritually bankrupt, that he could do nothing and add nothing to his own salvation. Paul's pride drove him to seek his salvation in works and apart from Christ. Paul's pride kept him from accepting God's plan for salvation by grace through faith. However, after his Damascus road conversion, Paul knew that salvation is not by works but only by grace through faith. And now, as he is writing to the church of Philippi, he finds himself doing battle with Judaizers who pride themselves on their observance of the law and circumcision.
(Phil 2:3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Instead of pride, we are to be filled with humility. Instead of self-glory, we are to seek the glory of God.
Of course, the Lord Jesus is our perfect example here. If there ever was someone who lived a life of humility, it was Jesus. Did you catch what our Scripture reading says about Christ's humility?
(Phil 2:6-8) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!What humility, what perfect humility. Jesus was and is and always will be God. Yet, He emptied Himself for a while of the glory that is eternally His. He Who was and is and always will be almighty God "made himself nothing." He Who was and is and always will be almighty God came to earth as a man. He Who was and is and always will be almighty God came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Now, in introducing us to the humility of Christ, Paul says to us, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." In other words, we are to imitate Christ. We are to be like Christ. We are to be humble instead of proud. Like Jesus, we are to seek God's glory rather than our own.
B "In humility consider others better than yourselves." Paul's audience knew right away what he was talking about here. We are to have the attitude of a slave before his master, a servant before her employer. A slave, you see, knows who his betters are. A slave is meek and humble before his superiors and hastens to serve and obey.
C For believers, true humility starts with an awareness of our sin and sinful nature. When the Prophet Isaiah went up into the temple to pray, he discovered that his sin made him unacceptable. Overwhelmed by a vision of the glorious presence of God, he said,
(Is 6:5) "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." When we are aware of our sin and sinful nature, we realize we really have no reason at all for pride, for vanity, for self-glory. When we are aware of our sin and sinful nature, we realize how worthless we really are.
D While Isaiah realized his own inadequacies and unacceptableness, he also discovered the grace of God which made him acceptable. God provided cleansing from his sin:
(Is 6:6-7) Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. (7) With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."Having cleansed Isaiah, the Lord then appointed him to proclaim the Word of the Lord.
The Lord teaches us here that apart from His grace towards us in Christ, we are nothing. It is humbling to know that apart from Christ all that we have and all that we do counts for nothing. Paul can say,
(Phil 3:7-8) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (8) What is more, I consider everything a loss ... I consider them rubbish ...And, it is humbling to know that it is only in Christ that we can do anything (Phil 4:13).
(Phil 2:3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. We have a choice, congregation. We have a choice between pride or humility, self-glory or God's glory.
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